Most offices will have a "Bring Your Child to Work Day", but it is not typical for the average workplace to allow employees to bring their kid to work every day. However, a baseball clubhouse is a place with its own rules and norms. Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche, who resides in nearby Fort Scott, Kansas, retired this week due to a disagreement on how often he could bring his son into the clubhouse.
Adam LaRoche, who grew up in big league clubhouses himself, as the son of former big leaguer Dave LaRoche, brought his 14-year old son Drake into the clubhouse. Every day. At home and on the road. He had done this for several years however, with the approval of his teammates and management. When LaRoche played for the Washington Nationals, his teammates did not mind Drake's presence so long as he kept out of the way. When Adam signed with the White Sox last year, they gave Drake his own locker. According to Chicago sports talk show host David Kaplan, the White Sox agreed to allow Drake in the clubhouse 100% of the time as a condition of LaRoche's signing, although this agreement was not in writing.
This spring, White Sox President Kenny Williams asked him to "dial it back." LaRoche decided that rather than comply, he would retire and give up his $13 million salary. A group of White Sox players, including Chris Sale, had an angry meeting with Williams, arguing he should stay out of the clubhouse. Reportedly, Williams had made his decision after some players had complained about Drake's presence.
Overall, it's pretty difficult to say who's right and who's wrong. Players have a right to workplace conditions with which they agree. If an agreement was truly in place, then Drake LaRoche had a right to be there. If other players didn't like having a 14-year old in the clubhouse, they have a right to complaing. It's all pretty crazy. Jim Margalus of South Side Sox summed up the situation fairly well:
And of course there isn't a way for most of the labor force to compare their workplaces to a baseball clubhouse. It's not just the money and the travel and the demands and the celebrity and the rampant immaturity -- as the Papelbon incident last year showed, this is an environment in which assault of a coworker falls into a gray area somehow. Clubhouses are kept alien on purpose, and ballplayers reject outside attempts at normalization.
Every clubhouse is different. Many baseball insiders and players cite chemistry as an important dynamic for performance in baseball. Sometimes, examples like the Nationals last year and the chicken-and-beer Red Sox stuff suggest that clubhouse chemistry can have a negative effect. Examples like the Royals, who apparently have a very strong and loose clubhouse, suggest that clubhouse chemistry can have a positive effect. Regardless, the clubhouse is a workplace. Clubhouse conditions must be agreeable for all. It's hard to have good clubhouse chemistry if they're using the wrong flask.
As this story has spread, various clubs have given some details on their positions in the matter. Here's Ned Yost on the subject:
The Royals' stance is a little different than the White Sox's situation. Yost asserted that having kids in the clubhouse is "cool", and that family is very important. However, he noted that the kids are out once batting practice starts, and the kids can come back in after a win. Presumably that means kids don't hang around during a game or come in after a loss.
Without knowing too many details, the Royals seem to have a perfectly reasonable policy. Royals players get down to business once batting practice starts, and players are likely grumpy after losses. Little irritations, the ones sometimes provided by young children, can push people over the edge when grumpiness is already there. On the other hand, seeing their child after a loss could provide solace. It's probably all smiles and celebration after a win.
Honestly, the Royals seem like a bunch of goofballs who act like 9-year-olds anyway. Have you seen Salvador Perez mess around with Lorenzo Cain on Instagram? While their policy is perfectly good and reasonable, I'm not sure Royals players would object too much if the policy were slackened. They could, I don't know. I think having kids in the clubhouse can get a little weird for obvious reasons, but I'm not a part of the clubhouse. Refer back to Jim's quote above.
Each workplace is different. Each team has to find their own level of comfort with family presence in the workplace. Each player has the right to agree or disagree with their team's policy. The Royals' chain of command seems to be pretty in sync; if there were ever a dispute, I'm not sure we would hear about it.